Saturday, June 29, 2013

Always Somebody to See: Race to Read 5K Event Report

Anymore I almost expect it.

That is, regardless of where I'm running a race, I'll see somebody I know.

Really, it isn't the most far-fetched thing.

The very first marathon I did was the 2004 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., and in the middle of a sea of 20,000 people waiting for the start was Ray Alexander and Hans Jaeger from Tomball and Conroe, respectively, of the Seven Hills Running Club.

Two summers later, I'm standing in a field of grass in Sequim, Washington - getting ready to do the North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon -- and all of a sudden I hear, "Jon Walk, what are you doing here?"

It was my very good friend, Becky Spaulding, who I met two years before while doing HARRA's Power In Motion program at Memorial Park.

I kind of wondered doing this morning's 5K in Harker Heights -- the Race to Read 5K from the Harker Heights Community Park -- who I was going to see that I knew.

However, I really didn't give it a serious thought.  Fleeting, for sure.

Nonetheless, I saw Calvert's Dennis Alston who has been at the last two 5K's that I've done -- the Kosse Greyhound 5K and the Polish Pickle Run 5K in Bremond last Saturday.

Dennis asked where Ken Johnson from the Seven Hills Running Club was.  It was just a tad bit far for Ken to run a 5K.

Me?  I got more out of it than just to run a 5K.  I came over on Friday and watched the New Orleans Zephyrs do battle with the Round Rock Express in Pacific Coast League (PCL) action.  I figured since I'm going to be seeing a bunch of ballparks this summer that I might as well get my game watching endurance up.

When you buy a single ticket, you can pretty much get a really good seat and that was certainly the case Friday night.  Right at the end of the visitor's dugout on the first base side and on the third row.  Great place to watch a game from and take pictures.

When I got to the hotel, I did the final 4-1-1 on this morning's race.  One good thing is that it was a 7 a.m. start.  Perfect with the heat this weekend.

But on their paper registration form, it said that they weren't going to take any more entries after 6 a.m.  Seemed kind of strange for a small race, but lo and behold I was in the parking lot -- first -- at 5:50 a.m.

And there was a kind, friendly volunteer to take my money and entry.

An outfit out of Belton, Pro-Fit Event Services, was doing the timing (and they did a really good job), but they used the IPICO timing device that affixes to the back of the bib (which didn't have holes to run the pins through).

However, everything worked out OK.  The bib never came off.

On-time start, which is always good, and a very well-marked course although it didn't have mile markers.

Lots of inclines and just one short quick hill (which was in the first mile), but it was enough that you didn't feel that you had enough declines to make up for what you lost on the inclines.

My time was where I wanted it to be as I move more closely to my normal workout pattern and my new effort to cut sodas - diet and the leaded variety -- out of my diet.

However, Dennis said that the course was long -- 3.17 miles.  If so, that would put my time close to what it was last Saturday in Bremond, including the inclines.

I can live with that.

A race in Texas city or town #82 is in the books.  My next new town looks for sure to be Nacogdoches on Saturday, July 6 when I go run the Freedom 5K and check in on my good friend Edwin Quarles.

Already looking forward to it -- and announcing the Fourth of July's 24th annual Baytown Bud Heat Wave.

Always good to get behind the microphone.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bremond's Polish Pickle 5K Event Report

Some people are driven to drink.  Me?  I’m driven to write, at times.  Besides, I get no stronger than a Mountain Dew.

Writing is how I work out life’s problems and issues.  Sometimes, though, what comes out isn’t what people may be accustomed in hearing from me.  I think a lot of people may believe that because some of the leadership roles that I play in various communities – and how well I handle and perform them -- that I don’t have any struggles.  Yet I do.

Running.  It’s very much a part of my life yet it isn’t my whole life, if that makes sense.  For those who I see that it appears to be, I tend to shy more away from them (but I readily admit that I have no knowledge of what’s going on in their world and if they may be using the sport and/or activity to battle against the things they’re dealing with). 

And sometimes it can be a challenge when they won’t let you into their world, even while they seek entry into yours.

Yet I was reminded this morning from a friend in the athletic community (and their Facebook feed of the Bible app), “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” ~ Proverbs 18:2.

I would love to understand; however, I also choose to give people their space and not to push the envelope either.

That being said, I can see how people may think running is the end-all, be-all for me from the number of events that I’m either involved in or appear at.  However, it is just an activity that simply occupies my time – short of some other things that I might wish would take me away from it more.

And while there are people and situations who have and do push me away from it all, at times, a race like the Polish Pickle 5K – and the people that were at it – is what keeps me pressing on.

From a running perspective, I struggle in the early-to-late spring because of the work that I’m doing with a lot of events (The Woodlands, Gusher, Seabrook and so on).  I don’t get a requisite five to six 60- to 90-minute workouts in per week and I lose a lot.  I use a lot of summertime 5Ks and 10Ks to help me reposition myself for the fall with the Chevron Houston Marathon always being a focus of trying to run as well as I can.

Yesterday, though, was one that reminded me of how much my daughter and I are respected and generally well-liked by many.  Most can say both, but everybody else can claim one quality or the other.  Well, for Waverly, they always like and respect her – even if she’s only 18.  (But, as her father, I win there too, in a sense.)

I was asked, if not once, a dozen times where Waverly was.  That, of course, made me smile and proud at the same time.  (She was recovering from her trip to Kenya and Tanzania.)

I’ve said many times:  I’m not the type that is the life of the party.  Never have been.  Never will be.  But there are those that know that if you’re truly a friend or somebody that I might like to have as a friend, I’ll do something – or make a solid effort - that honors and respects that.

The last time that I ran the Polish Pickle 5K was a perfect example of that.  It had been six years since I had last run the race and, quite honestly, that’s been a little too long.  (The community and race director Ken Yanowski do a great job and yesterday was a record-setting day for the race.)  When I did, Waverly and I made the drive as a stop on the way to Lubbock to watch our good friend, Kimberly Mac Namee (then Hager), compete in the Ironman 70.3 at Buffalo Springs Lake the following day.

We surprised Kim because she was the type of individual that didn’t want to take attention away from the athletes that she coached – then as part of Team Strive.

Two weeks before, I had made a nearly identical drive to Kosse to run the Greyhound 5K.  It was a race in my 81st Texas city or town. 

I always joke that for those of us that aren’t as fast as the others, we have to have different goals.  Seriously, though, it is about having a good time and experiencing life in a unique way.

I’m sure if more people knew, they’d ask:  “You mean you drove two hours to run a 5K and then, once you got there, you didn’t race it?”

Indeed.  Once I could tell that I wasn’t “in it”, so to speak, I decided to run the entire race with Ken Johnson of the Seven Hills Running Club.  I hadn’t done this with Ken since a Run The Woodlands 5K or a TWRC Sunday Night 5K – and I enjoyed it and was glad that I did.

Ken was in Bremond on Saturday, as was a great group of members from the Seven Hills Running Club that I have started to reconnect with.

I believe that it was his 18th consecutive time to run the Polish Pickle 5K. 

Over the years, I’ve learned that training groups, clubs, etc. can seem to be cliquish – and maybe I’m the only one that ever feels that way (and it is more me - which could very well be).  That I really dislike, though, and it inevitably drives me away. 

I enjoy investing time and energy in people who don’t seem to allow themselves to fall into that space – or let the group they belong to consume who they are as an individual.

There were a number of folks that I had the opportunity to meet during the Memorial Day 5K that Ken hosted from his house in the Timberwilde subdivision of Huntsville.

One of those was Laura Green, who paced off of me at the Memorial Day 5K to beat me by four seconds.

When I saw her and her husband, Glenn, I told her, “Hey, no drafting off me today!”

The beating – from her - was 14 seconds this Saturday, even though I was ahead until the turnaround.

Steve Bickford, who came down and ran all of the Texas Bridge Series races last year and is the club vice president, is always a pleasure to visit with and talk to.

And during the race, president Darren Grant, who gassed me out to a 9:0-something first mile at the Memorial Day 5K while chatting for four or five minutes, came up in the last mile and ran a little with me – as he had with many other club members.

Today was a 9:18 and Darren was nowhere to be found! 

I later learned that he started at the very end and used it as a way to keep himself from going out too fast.  Probably something I need to do the rest of the summer, but I think I have challenges with weaving around walkers and strollers.  We’ll see.  I’ll take it under advisement.

A good group from Houston – as there always is – made the trek north and took home their fair share of pickles!  The Polish Pickle 5K, for years, has been a road trip race for the Tornados Running Club and that was partly the case this Saturday.

Yet, a Terlinguan and BARCer is one that I’ve seen and connected with at races most of the time that I’ve been running – Ben Harvie.  He actually remembered being at the Polish Pickle Run when Waverly and I were last year (and oddly enough on Saturday I remembered coming up behind him in Austin – on the way back to our vehicles – after more than one race.)

Ben easily took home the top prize in the 65-69 division while Joe Oveido (35-39), Tuan Nguyen (50-54), Penn State alum Ed Fry (55-59) and Miguel Lopez (60-64) all won their age groups.  Catherine Kruppa, who spoke for us at The Woodlands Marathon Expo, won the women’s overall while John Yoder took the men’s masters title.

After the race, Catherine said, “Hello”, while I was talking a little bit with Ed and I told her that I needed for her to take off her sunglasses for me to recognize her!

Joining John in the winner’s circle – by grabbing the men’s veterans title - was Georgetown (or near-Austin) native Bill Schroeder, who I haven’t seen in quite some time.  Bill was a Houston Striders member at the same time I was and he and his wife, Mindy, were at the race.  They both also worked the aid station at the far end of the Texas Marathon course in Kingwood on New Year’s Day.  (I last ran it in 2009, but have “worked it” every year since.)

Likewise, there was a good group from The Woodlands, as there always seems to be.

Representing The Woodlands Running Club was Russell Meyer, Carlos Ortegon, Ann Leoni, Randy Bradley, Kristin Collins, Kathleen Eaton, Jennifer Perkins and Suz White.

Actually, I don’t think I have really met Suz formally, but she knew who I was.  I was greeted with the fact that I was “the voice”.  I said, “No, that’s really a 16-year-old from Cypress!”

Flattering?  Sure.

Russell won the Clydesdale division, beating the race director Ken Yanowski (and long-time division winner), but the biggest winner was Randy Bradley who won the $500 raffle!  Wow!  Ann was second in her age group while Kristin was third in hers.

Winning their age group in a personal best time was the daughter of a very good friend of mine, Holden ChoiAllison, 18, a recent graduate of College Park High School, easily took her division in 20:27.  She’s been working with Bill Dwyer’s runners in an effort to position herself for a tryout for the University of North Texas cross country team.

Others who placed in their age group, included JC Guzman and Jose Torres of the Seven Hills Running Club.  JC won his 40-44 division in 19:39 while Jose was second in the 20-24 age group in 19:41.  Jose was the winner of the inaugural Texas10 Huntsville.

Ken was third in the 70-74 age group while it was good to see Jerry Flanagan at yet another 5K since having hip replacement surgery.

Also making the drive north – as I saw them at the Chisholm Trail Half Marathon in Crawford back in April – was Monica Montoya and Keith Cotropia.  It wasn’t until the last year or so that I actually knew who Keith was, even though I’ve been seeing his name in the results for years.  Monica came from behind and passed me after we turned on to Main Street.

Since a really good mid-April Saturday effort in Pennsylvania (in the cold weather), my 5K times haven’t been something to write about, but yesterday’s time was actually the best it has been since then.

And a special shout-out to Run Houston Timing's Jack McClintic for letting me stash my keys and my camera at his table while the race was going on.

Much work to do there, of course, and with me personally.